Friday, 24 January 2014

What a Wonderful Year........

The end of an era........ (yes, I'm calling it an era!)

This post finds me sitting in my home in Australia, free from jet lag and packing stress, with travel aches and pains but a fond memory (not quite but almost!). My year in Colorado is complete and I am feeling slightly off balance still. I'm beginning to get my Aussie life back together - bought a car, straightened out my health insurance, purchased a new mobile, visited my dentist....... but there is still a small part of me that wishes I was walking the halls of Nisley seeing my wonderful US friends every day. Instead, I am sitting through the hottest heat wave we have had in a century (I swear that's what they said on the news tonight!) and beginning to read through curriculum documents in preparation for school starting back in a week and a half. Then I remembered this blog. And while it seems not many people have been reading this over the last 4 months, there are a few steady visitors for whom I wish to show the last pieces of my amazing year of exchange. So here we go.......

Final Farewell

My gorgeous best mates Sara and Janel took me to the airport in Grand Junction on my last morning there. I was very strong and brave with them but I will admit here on this blog to having a few tears after I walked through security and was on my own. Particularly after reading a lovely card that Sara had given me. Thanks Sara - everything on there was completely and utterly true in every way!


After a delay in Denver due to my plane arriving late from GJ and thus having to be put on a later flight, I arrived in Vancouver where I found their security much easier than US Customs! :-) The officers just seemed much nicer as well. Aside from a terrifying taxi ride from the airport to the hotel - 90 km/h in a 60 zone and then dropped at the wrong hotel - I was walked to the right hotel by a lovely concierge who even took one of my heavy bags!! I settled in well that night for sure :-)

The first day I went for a walk around a few blocks during the morning, then came back and caught a bus to Grouse Mountain, the closest ski mountain to Vancouver being only 15 minutes away. I was a bit disappointed snow wise - they have not had as much as Colorado so there was a slight difference in the snow pack. However, it was nice and cozy in the lodge and very very busy since it was a Sunday!! You ride a gondola up to the top of Grouse - and this gondola fits 100 people inside each trip. It did snow slightly when we were up there which did make it more magical :-)

The Lodge at Grouse Mountain

Snowshoe trail

Ice Skating rink

Sky Gondola arrives at the top of Grouse Mountain
An entry in the Gingerbread House competition at the Lodge

This was my favourite :-)

Following Grouse Mountain, I again caught the bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is 140 metres long and crosses 70 metres above the Capilano River. Walking across the bridge was slightly nerve wracking, particularly when some young children decided to walk really "strongly" across which caused some extra sway. However, there is a "monitor" who sits at the top of the bridge all day and night it is open to guests - and if they see anyone being nasty like running, jumping or being unsafe they use their PA system to ask people to stop! When I was there they still had their Christmas light display up and going, which was really beautiful. As the sun went down the compound got prettier and prettier...... see some of my photos below:

About to head out on the suspension bridge......

Misty view from the bridge over the river ......
the cliff walk can be seen on the right

There was a tree walk as well connected with mini suspension bridges

As it got darker, the lights made more of an impression

Heading down to the start of the cliff walk

Hanging out off a cliff

Suspension bridge in the background

Walking along the cliff face

A sparkling Christmas wonderland of lights

The bridge as dusk truly fell


The following day I took a small group bus out to Whistler, which is an hour and 45 minutes drive away on the Sea to Sky Highway. Our first stop was at a small waterfall called Shannon Falls, where I saw the green and misty forest we often see in movies set in this northern part of the American continent. The overcast sky and damp drizzle only added to the atmosphere!

From here we stopped off again for a short break to see an eagle habitat by a river. Very calm, very open, very quiet!! There were over a dozen eagles here - see of you can see some of them in the trees in the first picture!

At Whistler itself there was no snow at all in the village, which was demonstrative of the low snow season they had had so far. It did remind me of Vail, Colorado slightly in the "look" of the town. Once up on top of the mountains, there was quite a bit of snow for my Sketchers to compete with! My gondola pass allowed me to travel up to the top of Whistler Mountain, across to Blackcomb, return to Whistler and then travel back down to the village. The gondola ride to the village to the top of Whistler mountain (1809 meters) took about 15-20 minutes (from memory). I strolled around amongst all the skiers and snowboarders for a few minutes looking at the view, then jumped on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to travel above the valley to the Blackcomb Mountain top. This trip was phenomenal! Taking about 15 minutes to cross the divide between the two mountain peaks, it travels 3.024 kilometres while remaining 436 metres above the ground. Needless to say - I did NOT have a trip in one of the two glass bottomed gondolas they had running amongst the regular gondolas! The P2P gondola sat above the clouds as I travelled over and back, meaning I had gorgeous mist filled vistas.

Top of Whistler Mountain

Whistler Village Gondola

Symbol of 2010 Winter Olympics sitting on top of Whistler Mountain

Peak 2 Peak Gondola - sitting above the clouds

New Year's Eve was the day after my trip to Whistler and I really just spent the day chilling out.  caught the Hop On, Hop Off Trolley around the city and spent a few hours listening to the information surrounding the area. I then went "walking" down Robson Street - the shopping district - and am proud to say I only bought a jumper and a present for my friend's little boy (my suitcase weight limit may have had something to do with my restraint as well!) From there, I chilled out at the hotel and after having dinner later on, welcomed the New Year with a drink and a toast to all the people I knew far and far away from me! :-)

Homeward Bound.........

New Year's Day saw me head to the airport with all my luggage and begin my trip back to Oz. My last travel leg of this amazing year was assisted by a lovely lady at Air NZ check-in who allowed me to reconfigure my weight so I didn't have to pay over weight charges. While this caused me some sweat, cursing and the threat of tears, I managed to finagle my luggage so I could get passed through the carry on weight limit and check in only two suitcases. I left Vancouver at 6:30pm January 1st and arrived in Melbourne on January 3rd at 10:30am. Very happy to be back on Aussie soil - but I did experience a really weird moment as I was lining up with my suitcases to go through customs when I realised that this was it. This was the end of the year. I was not returning to the States, or getting on another airplane. My year of adventure and travel was over. My life in Colorado was complete. My exchange year was was a very bittersweet moment for me. However, hopefully my adventures are only put on hold while the bank balance builds up again - many more plans and dreams afoot!!

The end of a ...... (insert positive adjective here) ...... year

To my friends and family who have been following along on my adventures this year through this blog, I hope you have enjoyed my updates and exploits. Thanks to everyone who left me comments or sent me emails - it was wonderful to receive contact from "home".

To my gorgeous friends and "family" in Colorado (you know who you are) - thank you for one of the best years of my life. It would not have been as great as it was without you. Friends forever!

And now, back to reality. Back to school - new grade level, new principal, new changes - which will make it an interesting year :-) Back to my home, back to my life here. Fingers crossed it will continue to be filled with exciting and interesting adventures even here in Oz!

This blog will be on mini hiatus - I am planning to blog with my class this year and possibly begin a teacher blog myself. I do plan on documenting any further travels I make -  however big and small! So do keep an eye on this space as I may post some small holiday trips I manage to complete over school breaks!

But now, for right now, without further ado, I say to you all......

"Good Afternoon, Good Evening and Good Night."
(Pick the reference if you can!)

Keep smiling,

Candice :-)



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